De De Mouse sets an electronic trap

by Daniel Robson

“I am a musician, not a celebrity,” says the shy fop when asked about the bumbled between-song banter in his otherwise triumphant set that finished just moments earlier at a music festival. Facing in toward his backing band, rather than outward to the crowd, the shy fop had buried his head in a bank of computers and keyboards, a floppy curtain of black hair and a light pair of glasses covering what little was left visible of his face.

“I’d rather people listened to my music than my opinions,” he continues. “If you get a reputation for having funny stage banter, people spend the whole show waiting for you to talk and don’t pay attention to the songs. Also, I’m shy. I hate speaking in front of people.”

The shy fop in question is one Daisuke Endo, better known as De De Mouse, a one-man trip into digital oddness. Raised on a diet of IDM (intelligent dance music) by artists such as Squarepusher, Aphex Twin and Luke Vibert, as well as Japanese synth-pop from the likes of Yellow Magic Orchestra and, as a kid, J-pop, Endo channels his influences into De De Mouse’s rich, complex electronica.

Regardless of his shy stage persona, Endo’s productions abound in laidback self-confidence — doubtless a result of working solo.

“I’ve always made music alone,” says Endo. “I like being able to do exactly what I want and at my own pace. I have a pretty strong vision of the music I want to make.”

The music Endo wants to make fuses breakbeats and live-sounding sequenced drums with shimmering synths that sound like chiptune gone biotic. His signature flourish is a sprinkling of soulful yet heavily manipulated samples of ethnic singing from around Southeast Asia; the robotic stutters and nuanced pitch shifts lend his songs an inhuman human element that sets them apart.

“I tend to use certain chord structures, vocal melodies and harmonies, and that combination naturally sounds organic,” he says. “It was never intentional, although I think that’s what a lot of my fans are drawn to. I’ve always loved really inorganic, hard techno music.”

Endo is currently working on a new album, scheduled for release in January 2011. He describes his new material as being more danceable than before, and says that there will be a stark contrast between different types of song. “The crazy songs are crazier and the simple songs are simpler,” he says.

Endo’s live show is an important element of the De De Mouse package, and he has taken it to clubs large and small, in Japan and abroad. At larger shows and festivals, he is backed by a solid drummer and excitable keyboardist, as Endo plays a couple of synths and flips a cockpit’s-worth of switches. For more intimate events or gigs that are geared specifically toward fans of dance music, Endo plays solo.

Of his several trips to Britain and Europe over the last year and a half, Endo says, “I was surprised to find the shows quite similar to playing in Japan. There’s not much difference in the performance itself. I think the fans overseas give a more direct reaction, though.”

This month, Endo presents the third in his Mousetrap series of club events in Tokyo, a two-night party at Liquidroom in Ebisu with sets from De De Mouse as well as some of his favorite artists, including lo-fi popster Shugo Tokumaru (interviewed for today’s Entertainment Spotlight). He is one of a handful of musicians with whom Endo feels particular affinity, despite their music falling into such different genres.

“Please come to Mousetrap to see him!” enthuses Endo. “I like his music a lot. He reminds me of a British musician called Badly Drawn Boy; it’s not loud music but it’s really powerful and unique. I also love a band called Group Inou, and I’m very close with (chiptune trio and labelmates) YMCK, (experimental electronic artist) Nanao Tabito and (another experimental electronic artist) World’s End Girlfriend. None of them are massively famous, but they each have their own unique sound and work hard at their art.”

Rather than engage in big-name remixes — which would no doubt satisfy the execs at De De Mouse’s monster label Avex — Endo prefers his rerubs to be handled with care, and he chooses his collaborators based not on marketing potential but on musical taste. As such, artists leaving their mark on De De Mouse material include Shinichi Osawa, Canadian artist I Am Robot and Proud, and British band The Go! Team.

“I’d love to remix or be remixed by Squarepusher, Aphex Twin or Luke Vibert — my favorite artists. Or if there was a chance to remix something for Kraftwerk, that would be amazing. I don’t care whether they’re famous or not; if I think I can do something special with their music or they can with mine, that’s enough.”

As you might expect of a shy, foppish, down-to-earth studio boffin, Endo does not have his sights set on the No. 1 spot on the Oricon chart, nor does he expect to sell a million records. His is a more natural, musical ambition.

“I don’t particularly want to become Bon Jovi or The Beatles or Lady Gaga,” he shrugs. “I just want to make music that people who feel the same as me can relate to. I want to create what I like, at my own speed, until the day I die.”

De De Mouse plays at Ringo Ongaku-sai at Nagano Matsumoto no Alps Koen in Nagano Prefecture on Oct. 1. Dates around Japan then follow till mid December. Mousetrap takes place Oct. 7-8 at Liquidroom in Ebisu, Tokyo. For details, visit www.dedemouse.com.